Monday, March 21, 2016

Chaos Theory

Eve is all about actions and consequences. The beauty of Eve is that the consequences are highly unpredictable, especially in wormhole space... well, at least on the long run.

Let me tell you a story about a chain of events which started with a random pilot firing a few shots at a random POCO in a forgotten wormhole system and ended with the destruction of a Rattlesnake a few days later in a seemingly unrelated C3 system.

People sometimes like to "gift" us POCOs in wormholes and shoot at them to generate notifications which, they assume, annoy us. I never really understood the behavior, but we woke up one day with this message:

We made some jokes about it in corp chat and then continued minding our own business, but curiosity got the better of me so I looked at the killboard of that system. Indeed, some of us have been in there a while back and probably annoyed the residents a bit. Thinking there was a small chance that this was indeed a real POCO bash and not some random aggression, I started running some locators:

Wasn't really expecting to get a hit - this meant he just fired a few shots at the POCO and then docked inside a station to await downtime. Chances were that Itamo system was the entrance to J124327.
And indeed it was.

The wormhole was empty, no forcefields, only dead sticks. Some POCOs were missing and one of the few left belonged to us, so I decided to sell the wormhole :)
C3 wormholes with high-sec statics are pretty wanted, even if they don't have good P.I. I got an offer in less than a day and sold it for 500 mil ISK. We transferred the POCO, too. Thank you, Ioku Adarger, whoever you are.

Two jumps down the chain I found another empty C3 wormhole with a high-sec static. Talk about luck. I received an offer the next day and ended up selling it for 425 mil ISK after guiding the customer inside. We used a broker, which means he didn't trust me very much, but he came directly in a DST instead of a scout, which was pretty hilarious. Of course we don't shoot our customers during a wormhole transaction, but I advised him to be careful and keep an eye on Dscan.

I left that system and logged out. A few hours later, after I was clearing up some bookmarks, I spotted this on Zkill:

My customer has been killed by none other than Zosius, the "Cloaky Bastard"! He runs a really nice blog which I happen to frequent pretty often:
Talk about coincidence.

In a way I feel sorry about my customer, even though I did my duty and advised him to be careful. On the other hand I brought more people into the realm of Bob and gave Zosius some practice for his new fleet doctrine. I'm sure he'll write an article about this soon ;)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Coder at heart

It's been a while since my last article. Apologies to my scarce group of readers. A few work and medical related issues (all good now) prevented me from being very active lately, but I wasn't completely disconnected from Eve.

While on medical leave I had the time (and boredom) to finally implement an idea I had for quite some time now. I named this idea "Pathfinder": a tool which is able to find the shortest path between solar systems (including wormholes). How does this work? It uses Tripwire (a popular wormhole mapper) and the Eve SDE (Static Data Export) database to construct its own version of the solar system with gates and wormhole connections. Here is how it turned out:

Why is this useful for me? It really helps me when I have to travel fast, for example when answering a batphone. On a good day, my alliance is able to generate more than 300 wormhole connections, including k-space to k-space connections and other useful shortcuts. Having a tool which is aware of all of these potential shortcuts may shorten the travel path, even if only by a few jumps, it can make a difference.

The application is open source and available to everyone who is interested: Here is a short demo on how this works:

The Tripwire developer, Daimien, will probably add this feature in a future release, but until then, Pathfinder is a workaround. I'm aware now that a tool named Pathfinder already exists, but I didn't know that at the time. If this tool will grow into something more than a proof of concept, I'll consider changing the name. This tool is still young and has some little bugs, especially regarding the user interface, so bear with me :)

Developing this application re-sparked an interest in graph theory, so I tried generating a wormhole map using Gephi and Pathfinder. The results were beautiful:

I got some good feedback from my corp mates and from the people on Reddit, most notably:

Now there's a comment worth hanging on my walls. This inspired me to submit the tool to a developer's contest organized by CCP, which, luckily, I learned about before the submission ended. I don't have high hopes, mainly because I think others were more dedicated, but also because my app doesn't focus too much on CREST, except for the part where you can authenticate with it and retrieve and set the in-game player location (which was, btw, pretty hard to implement).

Almost done, but, hey, no article on my blog should end without a kill. While shooting the above videos I noticed the residents of the wormhole, which I was using at that time for tests, started to log in. Killboards say they like to hunt explorers and ratters in their home system. Bait op it is!

Sadly, we lost our baiting ship, but killing almost 2b worth of stuff with decent loot is a good trade-off in my book. Wee Lad, if you are reading this, your sacrifice won't be forgotten :)

Fly dangerous o7

Monday, February 1, 2016

My Name is Legion, for we are Blingy

Wormhole space is special. It has a certain charm to it and I believe it sometimes radiates a portion of that charm to the k-space connections it leads to.

I was scanning my way out of a chain I logged off the day before after a small fleet roam, trying to replenish my supplies with nanite paste and cap boosters for my Stratios. I warp to an A239 wormhole leading to low-sec. The system is named Jerhesh and is located in the Aridia region.

Only me and another pilot are in local, but what I see on Dscan is intriguing to say the least: a Legion and blood raider wrecks. You, sir, have my attention. I usually don't like hunting in low-sec, but I know I just can't pass up a chance to a possible Legion kill.

I narrow the location of the Legion to be within 5 degrees of an anomaly, more relieved now that he wasn't doing a DED site, which was my initial thought. While warping to the anomaly I quickly check the killboard of the pilot, but I already know there's a very small chance for it to be bait - it's a quiet system and there was nobody to bait in the first place before I entered 1 minute ago.

I land on the anomaly while maintaining cloak. The rats and some wrecks are there but the Legion warped off. He probably saw me on Dscan when breaking wormhole cloak. I move to a tactical while trying to figure out what he's doing and where he's currently at. I realize he's at a Mobile Depot at an unscanned signature or at a safe spot. I decide to wait and contemplate my next move, but at the same time I was asking myself: what is he refitting into? I hope not to a travel fit to leave the system because of me.

The Legion warps back to the anomaly. My blood starts pumping. I know now he's probably not afraid of me and most likely refitted to some tackle mods. I take a closer look at his ship. I recognize the cloaky and the active rep subsystems... and he is laser-fit. This is perfect for me. I warp at range at a wreck near the Legion. I ignore the rats still on field and decloak and engage him.

WHY CAN'T I SCRAM HIM? I'm such a noob, my safety was on. I quickly disable it and tackle him. Aura: "Your security status has been lowered". Yeah, no shit. He returns the favor with a scram and the battle starts, even though he had plenty of time to get out because of my error.

I cycle and overheat my neuts a bit, while my Geckos are working on his armor. He is catching some reps and tanks pretty well, but, not long after, he stops firing and his armor starts dropping. His capacitor was pretty much empty. From that point on, it was easy. Legion explodes, capsule warps off and I open the wreck. What I see next surpasses my imagination:
I mean I've never even seen officer mods before in my relatively short Eve career of 1.5 years. I go back to my wormhole chain and start scanning for a k-space exit near a tradehub, or at least a high-sec to get the loot to safety. I was blessed with an exit 6 jumps from Jita. I pass through a 10-man Marmite camp without a care in the world, laughing like a mad man all the way back to Jita 4-4. I sell the officer mods to some buy orders, which, surprisingly, were not part of a trade margin scam.

Praise Bob for giving me this connection to a remote place in Aridia.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Anatomy of a Hunt

The search for J213411

I first met Apex Bex (who runs a blog named "Disciple of Bob") when I was planning to bait his smartbombing Proteus, named the "Night Fever", designed to kill unassuming explorers venturing in his home system, a C3 wormhole with a Red Giant effect, bonused for smartbombing damage, vaporizing capsules in the process, too, leaving absolutely no dignity in the victim. He then proceeds with scooping the corpse and throwing it in the center of the sun as a sacrifice to Bob. Praise Bob.

The story starts when I "stumbled" upon his home system, or so I told him later. I didn't actually stumble upon the system, I was actively searching for it. Being in Wingspan, it was a matter of time before me or my corpmates found the system, but I still wanted to speed up the process. I used locators. The fact that Apex Bex functions like a clock made the process easier. I observed he usually logged in after downtime. And what does a wormhole resident do after he logs in? He usually scans the signatures, maybe checks out his k-space connections, too. So I start spamming locators. After 15 minutes of spamming (yeah, I know it's not pretty) I finally got a hit. A null-sec system. Well, better than nothing.

I sent my scanning alt on a little expedition. After scanning all the wormholes in the target nullsec system in the search of the "red" nebula specific to C3 wormholes, I jumped a frigate only wormhole.
I have finally found the home of the "Night Fever". I park my scanning alt in there and take a break from this operation for a little while because of the holidays. During this period I had time to create and skill up a new bait, because all of my other alts were already compromised.

The humble life of a bait

Meet Jim Natinde. Jim's entire purpose in life, or lives, for that matter, is to be used in baiting operations. Oh, how he must hate his creator. Jim was engineered with care, but not without imperfections. The Magnate he flies is designed to withstand 11.6k EHP of EM damage:

The Night Fever pulses around 2963 EM damage per volley in a C3 Red Giant with a fit which I believe is similar to this:

Each volley takes about 5.72 seconds to cycle when overheated, which gives our bait an estimated lifetime of at least 22.88 seconds. Plenty of time for my Stratios to take over the tackle the Magnate will initiate first. I was contemplating of fitting a Passive Targeter, but I had to drop the Afterburner. Having only an Afterburner and no MWD is suspicious enough, let alone no propmod at all. And I didn't want to bore him to death while he is watching an explorer slowboat to cans.

What else does a good bait need? A believable killboard, well, at least to a certain extent. So I sent poor Jim to lowsec to die in an explorer-fit Magnate with exploration loot onboard. It was harder than I thought. I picked the largest red dot on the map where a fight was probably going on and sent him there, which was not very far from where he was stationed. Upon entering the system, Dscan was flooded with Sleipnirs, but nobody was camping the gate. Sigh. I narrow the fleet of Sleipnirs and other stuff at a moon. I warp the Magnate there and land him 30k off a big ball of Sleipnirs which was bashing a POS if I remember correctly. Yes! Finally the moment has arrived. But what are they doing? Upon exiting warp with the Magnate, the fleet just warps away. Noooo! Come back! FITE MEEE! Did they think Jim had a cyno? Hilarious.

Alas, I change the name of the Magnate to "Not Cyno Bait" and Jim continues his journey to self-destruction. By now I was regretting I didn't just pop him with one of my alts, but all of them were parked in wormholes. I finally stumble upon red flashy scary people in local. Smartbombing battleships on gate. Oh, this will be glorious, and, dare I say, ironic. I actually have to warp Jim multiple times between gates for the battleships to kill him. Well, good enough for me.

And so it begins

This is not the first time I attempt to bait a smartbombing explorer-hunter T3 cruiser, as seen from the previous posts on this blog, but I know it will be the hardest. All my good baits were compromised and Jim was the only hope I had. Apex Bex describes in his blog he survived multiple attempts of baiting, so I have no illusion of how difficult it will prove. From his killboard, at least, I know he is interested in T1 frigates, so I take my chances.

I have already watchlisted all the relevant pilots I could find and I park my Stratios in the C3 Red Giant while they are offline. I scan down the signatures and, luckily, there was a Relic site already spawned before downtime. I make tacticals and move the Magnate inside the system, also. After that, I log off both my pilots and wait until after downtime.

I login my Stratios immediately after downtime and wait. 20-30 minutes after, the prey logs in. My heartrate rises a bit. He doesn't deploy probes, yet. Nevertheless, I login my Magnate (conveniently named "Jim Natinde's Magnate") soon after and start scanning the signature I already had scanned down with my Stratios. The Magnate is sitting at a safe without a cloak and I take my time scanning the system.

I try to put myself into his position. What does he see? What does he think? He obviously sees the Magnate on Dscan. I hope he checks the killboard of the pilot. I assume he thinks he is a newbro who tries wormhole space after being blown up in low-sec. The pilot is 10-11 days old, so I know it may look suspicious to him, but I still hope. The bait doesn't have a cloak, either. Not sure how he thinks about that, but I'll wait and see. He logs in another one of his alts, also. Not sure what to think of that, either.

I scan the Relic site with my bait and warp the Magnate at 0k on the site. By now, my heartrate is pretty high. I approach a can with Afterburner on. My Stratios sits tight at a tactical aligned to the can, as well.

Magnate starts hacking while sitting still near the can. I was insistantly looking on the overview and spamming Dscan, heart in my throat. Never felt anything like this before in a game. I know he likes to decloak on the first can, so I wait a bit. My mouse hovers over the first row of the Overview. I hold down the control button and stop breathing for what I thought was an eternity. HE DECLOAKS. GET HIM!!!!!!

I initiate target lock with Scram active. I warp my Stratios while still cloaked at 0k on the Magnate, but I already realize... it's too late. In my adrenaline rush, I have tackled an Astero instead of the Night Fever. Disappointed... I froze for 5 seconds, while my Stratios was putting damage on the Astero, so was the Astero putting damage on the Magnate. Magnate was specifically tanked for EM and couldn't last long against the Astero's Warriors. Although I had a chance to save him using the Afterburner with better range control, Magnate went down in the end and Jim warped away in a capsule.

I write "wwwww" in local. I usually do not desecrate wormhole local chat, but this time I wanted to make him think I had corpmates incoming who wanted to whore on the killmail. I didn't know what the other pilot was doing and I couldn't afford a properly fit Proteus to decloak on me while I was working on the Astero. Astero goes down soon after. I loot the field and cloak up.

I like the dual-rep Astero, one of my favourite ships. I use almost the exact same fit, I just space out the armor reppers and warp scramblers for a better heat management.

Op success?

I have killed Bex's Astero instead of the Night Fever. For the amount of preparation I have made, this seems little. My bait was compromised, shamefully splashing to highsec.

All in all, I still consider this an op success. I killed at least a ship and I had a friendly conversation with Bex after. Told him what I was doing, asked him some questions about his decisions. Looking behind, it wasn't the worst bait I made, but certainly not enough. What I've done wrong was keeping Jim in an NPC corp and logging him too soon after Bex himself logged into the system, without giving him a chance to scout around, even though he had the signature already scanned down.

I left J213411 and I was content I made a friend, or so I thought at that time. This wasn't the last time I would meet Bex in wormhole space, but this will be an interesting story for another time. If you want to read this story from Bex's perspective, check this link here:

The fun things is, that another guy tried to bait him shortly after I left the system. Maybe you've heard of the Cloaky Bastard:

Zkillboard Data Mining

There are 2604 wormholes and you still end up killing the same people over and over again. While on a small roam with a couple of my corpmates, I entered a C2 wormhole from another C2. Bob works in mysterious ways. It was J110316 and I've returned there after almost a month. I was having a deja-vu. Quick inspection of the killboards of that system yields:

Talk about coincidence. It was another Magnate kill, but this time by a smartbombing Legion, and the Legion pilot was from the same corp and still online. Locators report that the pilot is in a wormhole. I scan the system with my Stratios and find some relic and data sites. Perfect! Even though the kill was over a week ago, I take my chances and login my bait, an Imicus pilot, and start making my way over there.

This bait wasn't as juicy as the one from the previous Proteus kill, but, judging from the killboards, the Legion pilot is interested in T1 frigates, also. Although the bait had a reputation of a spy (joined a corporation and bumped a Dread out of the forcefield), it did not show on the killboard, which were very credible by having some explorer losses already. This time I wasn't going to leave this to chance, so I've fitted a warp scrambler on the Imicus with a relatively decent EM tank, although I could've done better.

I was pretty certain that the Legion didn't see my Stratios on the way in. He was the only one online from that corp at that moment. I entered from an incoming C2 wormhole at the edge of the system and I suspected he was either watching the highsec static or was sitting at a tactical at one of the sites.

My corpmates provide a warp-in for the bait in the neighboring C2. After the Imicus is in, I start scanning the system again, but this time with the bait, to make things credible. The Imicus warps to the site and my blood already starts pumping. I start hacking and soon after I hear the sweet sound of pulsing smartbombs. Imicus initiates tackle on the Legion. GOT HIM! I warp my Stratios and take over the tackle. Legion pilot logs off in the middle of the fight, but his fate is sealed:

While logged off, his capsule e-warps because we didn't have any dictors. While my corpmates wait at the logoff spot, I refit to a combat probe launcher and proceed with scanning. I'm not actually in a rush, capsule still has a 15 minutes combat timer. We destroy the capsule and, soon after, ex-Legion pilot logs back in. We had a friendly conversation and some funny comments were written on Zkill:

After scooping the loot I was thinking: "hey, this is profitable, I wonder who else likes hunting explorers in smartbombing T3s". With this idea in mind I started doing something very autistic and wrote a python script to scrape Zkill and extract explorer kills in wormhole space which were done by T3 cruisers using EM smartbombs. I'll spare you details, but if you're interested in the source code, here it is:

I came up with this list for the last couple of months or so:
Tandail 19
AlienFury 14
Apex Bex 13
Padme Naberie 12
PostOp Transexual 8
Deadly Maneuvers 7
Arjar Ammar 7
nakedbulldog 4
Congratulations to all the above pilots who made it to the top, even though the list might not be accurate (because not all of them post to Zkill). I'm interested more in the pilots who hunt in the same system. Two of them I already killed and I was looking at MRS BIRCH and Apex Bex, but I'll need to find their home systems first.

I have stumbled upon MRS BIRCH's home system by pure accident later, but the bait operation failed. I made a couple of mistakes and he was too cautious, but we had a friendly convo and now we're friends. Sigh, I really should stop befriending my targets.

Anyway, my attention moved towards Apex Bex and the name sounded strangely familiar.

To be continued...

Baiting Smartbombing T3 Cruisers

My interest in smartbombing T3 cruisers began on a dark cold night in Anoikis. Me and a few of my corpmates decided the current wormhole chain was a bit uneventful, so we jumped back to high-sec, scattered in random directions and began scanning.

After a couple of jumps, I entered a C2 wormhole named J110316 from a high-sec dead-end system and started doing my ritual, which includes checking Zkill for recent kills. This got my attention:

A smartbombing explorer-hunter Proteus killed a Magnate not even 30 minutes ago! I've seen these kinds of ships before, podding unsuspecting pilots in low-sec, but never seen one in action in wormhole space killing explorers. It's a pretty hilarious and effective way to hunt explorers, because it doesn't matter how many stabs the victim's ship has and the pod will also get destroyed in the process. And this wasn't the only victim. The Zkill page of J110316 is filled with explorer deaths. RIP.

I add all the relevant pilots I could find on my watchlist. Two of them are online, including the T3 pilot. Nothing on Dscan. Ran some locators and found out that both of them are in a wormhole. I naturally assume both of them are in here. I see alot of deaths caused by their POS, so I didn't warp to it and try to bookmark it, because it probably has a ton of dirty bubbles. I chose not to launch probes and scan the system with my Stratios, at least not, yet.

My bait was sitting in a Helios about 18 jumps away. I told my corpmates what my plan is, they liked the idea and they decided to join me, even though I wasn't sure if there were any relic or data sites left in that system, but we prayed to Bob. My Helios finally arrives in the high-sec entrance system. Before entering the wormhole, I refitted the Helios in station with a hull and passive shield tank and had to drop the probe launcher because of it, but it didn't matter, because it was a Sister one and didn't want to risk it anyway. The problem was I didn't have any tackle on the Helios, but I was confident in my ability to tackle the Proteus with my Stratios, oblivious to the fact of how slippery a smartbombing T3 can be.

My corpmates, who were sitting in high-sec on the wormhole, provided a warp-in for my Helios. I jumped the Helios through, cloaked up and warped to a safe near the sun. My Stratios was sitting at a safe, also, somewhere near the planet where their POS was. I chose that place because it was off Dscan from the entrance and all the other signatures and I was sure they had no reason to stay near their POS, they were either cloaked up at the entrance and saw my Helios come through or they were cloaked up at a tactical near a signature.

I decloaked my Helios and Stratios at the same time and launched probes with my Stratios to make them think the Helios was the one actually scanning, when, in fact, that ship had no launcher. I cloaked up the Stratios immediately, but left the Helios a bit more uncloaked just in case they didn't see it when it entered from high-sec.

Praise Bob! I found a faction relic site! I warp the Stratios at the site and position it a tactical, but not before providing a warp-in for my Helios pilot. Helios uncloaks and burns to a can. I position my cloaky Stratios near that can, hands shaking already. Helios starts hacking.

BBOOOOMM! Not even 2 seconds later, Proteus decloaks and pulses the EM smartbombs. I uncloak my Stratios and spam lock like crazy. Helios already had him targeted just to prevent him recloak. It seemed like ages until my Stratios could get a lock and SUCCESSFUL TACKLE!

I instruct my corpmates to jump through and warp to me. I escape with my bait in 20% structure. Proteus is going down, but another one decloaks 20k off. GET HIM! I point him and burn to him with my AB on. In the meantime, the smartbombing Proteus exploded, so all our focus was on his friend/alt. Alas, he was too fast for us and he warped off. We loot the field and smile when we see 480m ISK in the wreck:

In retrospective, I was really lucky. My bait didn't have any tackle and I still managed to tackle the Proteus with my Stratios. I guess he didn't stay aligned and panicked. My bait survived and his non-suspicious killboard was saved for another time. I talked later to the Proteus pilot and he recognized he saw my Stratios come in, but chose to engage anyway in the hope that a drive-by would kill my bait.

What I would've done differently was to not call my corpmates so soon and wait for the second pilot to decloak on top of me, but I call this an OP success, thank you very much!

This wasn't the last time we've heard of the Proteus pilot, or at least of a member of that corp. To be continued...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A random blog spawns

Hello and welcome. I've recently posted a short story on Reddit and got some positive feedback. This encouraged me to start this blog and write about some events I've been involved in, especially in wormhole space. Narrated events won't be in any particular chronological order, just some stories that have happened or are currently happening. I regret I don't have recorded videos on some good memories I have as an Eve player, but I'll try to immortalize those memories in this obscure blog.

This is my first blog and English is not my first language, so bear with me. Constructive/destructive criticism and shitposts are welcome. Anonymous comments are permitted, as long as the insults are funny. I'll leave the comments open and will not try to moderate them, unlike authors of other blogs I visit.

About Valtyr Farshield

Kicked out of The Scope news agency immediately after being found drunk passed out in his own pool of vomit in a cheap Minmatar brothel while on a business trip pursuing a delusional story entitled "The connection between Sleepers and Bob", Valtyr Farshield joins Wingspan Delivery Services in pursuit of his never-ending quest of fucking up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that Cynos would light up and the moons would spin and the Titans themselves would shit Doomsdays with glee.

Fly dangerous o7